Last Epoch is the fourth breakout game of 2024

Like bugs bursting through the planet’s surface, four games came out of nowhere this year and they’re all exploding in popularity.

This week, it’s Last Epoch, a Diablo-style action RPG that’s currently being crushed under the weight of over 160,000 concurrent players on Steam. Its server issues are being worked on, but its offline mode seems to be keeping players fed.

It couldn’t have hit at a better time. Diablo 4’s third season is a little muted as Blizzard preps for a massive overhaul to its loot, and Path of Exile 2 is still months away. People wanted a loot game and they got one, made by a small team that met each other on Reddit, no less.

Steam reviews are mixed as people struggle to log in and stay connected, however. The developers have been posting constant updates about what they’re working on via every public channel available, but that hasn’t quelled the thousands of players enticed by its $34.99 price who expected it to just work. Five years of early access only really earns you trust with the people who stuck around, and yet, there are enough players still in it to keep it locked in the top 10 most played Steam games this week, even above Baldur’s Gate 3.

Last Epoch hasn’t exploded like Palworld did last month, but committed action RPG fans argue that its extensive item crafting system and satisfying build variety put it in direct competition with Diablo 4, a hugely popular game you’d think would’ve had all that figured out. As Diablo 4 players wait for Blizzard to address some of its long-standing issues next season, an alternative that has years of community-driven development already under its belt looks pretty enticing.

But Last Epoch was just one of four games that went big this year. These three other games continue to thrive.

Helldivers 2 celebrates the perseverance of players 

Helldivers 2 is in a similar situation as Last Epoch when it comes to server instability threatening to drag down its explosive success. Over the weekend, the co-op shooter for Starship Troopers fans surged in popularity. My X feed was filled with memes and clips of players getting squished by friendly supply drops. The fun was too contagious and the servers buckled as people rushed to enlist in Super Earth’s most expendable army. Much like Last Epoch’s Steam reviews, Helldivers 2 was hit with negative comments like “Great game. Wish I could play it,” all while steadily climbing up the most played chart.

It turns out players love a game with a strong focus, backed by a development team who is vocal about its dislike of pay-to-win, FOMO-driven live service monetization. Helldivers 2 is live service like an MMO, where individual actions slowly make an impact on the world: People share war stories and tips on social media as they take part in a global effort to sweep the galaxy clean of alien threats. And that progress is reflected in the game as different planets cycle out of rotation. For what is ostensibly just a co-op shooter, Helldivers feels like a saga everyone has a hand in writing. 

Enshrouded fills an open world with everything you’d ever want 

Enshrouded may not have the big concurrent player count like Last Epoch and Helldivers 2, but over two million players have picked up the early access fantasy, multiplayer survival game since it launched last month. Perhaps they were lured in by all the castles and hobbit holes players have been building in it. Or maybe it’s just a sign of how hungry people are for survival games right now.

Chris described Enshrouded as “Valheim crossed with Zelda,” an open world game with secrets and quests and NPCs hidden throughout. The Steam reviewers agree: Players praise it for its mix of exploration, building and storytelling, and just the fact that it’s even able to wield all three at once so well. Studio Keen Games says it’ll be in early access for about a year, and given the staggering level of interest it already has, it might go toe-to-toe with Helldivers 2 and Last Epoch soon enough. 

Palworld breaks the rules and lets you break them too 

None of these games made as big of a splash as Palworld. The Pokémon-like survival game didn’t quite come out of nowhere. It’s always been “the survival game with guns and Pokémon” since it was announced in 2021. Now, three years later, it’s the survival game with guns and Pokémon that has completely taken over the world.

In two months Palworld has brought in over 25 million players on Steam and Xbox. The game where you catch, recruit, and butcher cute creatures is unstoppable at this point. I still scroll by clips of it on TikTok and catch YouTube videos about efficient breeding techniques for your Pals. It’s a phenomenon that nobody could’ve predicted and even if its Steam concurrents have fallen off a bit, it has a whole roadmap of features coming to keep players hooked.

It didn’t matter how egregious some of its creature designs were or how wonky some of its systems felt, Palworld gave people the kind of open world survival game experience that Nintendo probably never will. It’s absurd and compelling and honest about what it is, which I think is what truly resonated in a sea of bigger releases that keep trying to push tired live service models built on generations of systems from similar games. Palworld, like 2024’s other surprise hits, nailed a simple goal: take a familiar genre and hone in on exactly what players want within seconds of booting it up.

Source: PC Gamer

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